The Business Gurus

The Sure Bet King featured sports betting touts, or pick-sellers, as its subject. Now I feel it right to turn to a very similar (to the point where there has to be substantial overlap) type of charlatan who has followed a similar path of thriving first on late night infomercials and then excelling on the internet.

I speak of course of the business guru, often called “fake gurus” by their critics (with good reason). First I feel obligated to note that unlike sports betting touts, their actual business model can be applied well. It consists of providing and selling teaching courses on starting and running businesses. These can and have been done legitimately, so there’s a substantial grey zone…

…in theory. In practice, the business gurus come in a type of scheme that makes them no better than Dr. Goldrush’s 1000 Star Guaranteed Lock Of The Century! The biggest part of this scheme is that the investment courses are sold as a get-rich-quick miracle, something that leads you to relax and leave that horrible job you have (of course, running a business as opposed to being an employee almost always means more work, but the gurus won’t tell you that). Just learn about real estate flipping/dropshipping/whatever, and you can be as rich as them.

The second-biggest part is that the gurus almost always make more money by selling these courses than they did by doing the business practices they supposedly teach. Which is understandable, as you rarely see real successful entrepreneurs running around hawking seminars.

Finally, the people who have braved the courses will often mention how shallow and insignificant the actual content within is. After all, once you’ve paid for the course, the actual content doesn’t matter to the gurus.

Novel Update And An Observation

So, I’m close to the end of The Lair of Filth, the sequel to The Sure Bet King. It’ll take touching up, polishing, and so forth, but I’m in the final arc of the draft. With that in mind, I’m already thinking of the plans for my next novel. While exact details need to be outlined, I’ve settled on “a pop epic about aviation” as the general subject.

It seems like quite the leap to go from sports betting to air transport. Or is it? When looking at the economics, I was a little (pleasantly) surprised at the similarities between the two seemingly opposite industries.

  • First for the most obvious and most unpleasant: Both are volatile, low-margin industries. The revenues from sports betting are dwarfed by other casino games (particularly slot machines), and revenue can swing on events like all the favorites winning. Similarly, airlines are barely-to-unprofitable with the exception of a few outliers like Southwest and Ryanair. And they are an incredibly cyclical, event-vulnerable industry.
  • Second, the barriers to entry are, for the most part, extremely low. Certainly lower than one might think. Stuff like pay per heads and aircraft leasing, or similar turnkey solutions, allow for many entrants, particularly in the less-demanding offshore world. Of course, maintaining that business is a lot harder…
  • Third, the products are almost commodotized. It’s numbers on a screen/an airplane with seats in it. There just isn’t much except for deals and pricing that distinguishes one sportsbook/airline from another most of the time. And both have also been hit hard by the ability of consumers to price shop on the internet.

So maybe it won’t be that different after all…

Cargo and Charters

My love of the big, weird, and military aircraft has made me neglect the humble workhorse transport. Until now. What I’ve taken an interest in is the world of air cargo and charters, especially cargo charters. So in terms of looking at never-were designs, this leads me to see something and ponder where its place in the commercial air ecosystem would be.

In most cases this is be pretty obvious. Where a superjumbo goes and where a tiny STOL plane goes are very simple. Likewise for any one craft in between. The biggest issue comes from the real exotics, like supersonics and VTOLS. I guess you could be reasonable and say “clearly their expense makes them impractical for civilian air transport at all”, but where’s the fun in that?

Furthermore, looking at air transport in general has given me flashbacks to my first novel. After all, the airline industry is incredibly low margin (at best!), volatile, and has very few ways of distinguishing one participant from another. So is the sports betting industry….

Adding A Tank Manufacturer

So this thought came to me from a throwaway line in Sidney Sheldon’s Master Of The Game about how the main character’s conglomerate started manufacturing tanks in World War I (along with other war material). How hard is it to slip a tank company into an alternate history?

There’s two boring solutions. One is that it’s easy if the story calls for it, with a focus on armored vehicle economics not usually being beneficial to a book (especially a Sidney Sheldon one). Another is that they can, especially during the World Wars, be just a contractor that built tanks designed by someone else (see a lot of railroad locomotive plants in World War II). A third is that they end up as the main winner for a gigantic wartime or Cold War contract and just become what General Dynamics Land Systems (to give one example) is in real life. A fourth is if severe politics (read-no reliable import partners) are involved.

But privately designed tanks for private sales? That’s tricky. There’s really only a few windows, the interwar and middle Cold War periods. Otherwise, you just have a glut of WWII surplus/early Cold War military aid or an equally huge one of advanced technology/later Cold War surplus.

And even then, for every success like the Vickers MBT, you have failures like the AMX-40 and Osorio, to say nothing of one-customer wonders like the Stingray. Both political power and economies of scale are tough to overcome. Yet there’s always the chance of getting an export order and then having the exported tanks do well enough to trigger more interested customers. It still isn’t going to come close to the T-55 or Patton, but it can work.